While breaking down the role of a social worker into one of the five major responsibilities below seems to simplify the work at hand, they are richly different activities for each client and every social worker. There is no “one size fits all” plan to therapy — no two treatment plans or clients are the same. These steps in mental health care are critical, and only a qualified social worker with a degree in mental health care can provide them.
1. Assess Your Client
Assessment involves getting to know your client on a multidimensional level to determine the most effective way to work with towards positive change. In this stage, you’ll gather information about the client’s situation within their individual, organizational, and societal systems, which allows you to learn the details of their family and medical histories, friendships, schools, jobs, and the issues they’ve had within each system. Assessment allows you to attain a deeper understanding of how your client sees their own situation, which areas they wish to address, and what strengths they bring to therapy. When assessment is complete, you’ll have a stronger idea of how to work with your client to develop an effective treatment plan.
Personality Traits — You’re: Perceptive, Objective, Analytical
2. Create and Implement A Treatment Plan
Once you’ve assessed your client, it’s time to work on a treatment plan that will empower them to overcome, recover from, or adjust to their situation. At this stage, you’ll listen carefully to the client in order to jointly define the goals and criteria that establish wellness for your client. Treatment plans generally include continued one-on-one individual therapy sessions to help your client move towards their desired goal, and could include group or family sessions geared toward a specific challenge they’re dealing with. Flexibility in treatment plans is necessary. As goals are met, new problems make themselves known, or crises erupt. They can also include referring clients to other resources that may help them such as support groups and medical professionals.
Personality Traits — You’re: Patient, Empathic, Flexible
3. Secure and Refer Needed Resources
Many times, creating and implementing a treatment plan involves more than just “talk-therapy.” Clients often benefit when they’re connected to community resources and government agencies such as food banks, health care and unemployment services, and benefits programs such as food stamp programs. Social workers may also refer clients to medical professionals for further treatment, support groups specifically geared to their client’s issue, job-placement recruiters, and child-care resources to help them successfully meet their wellness initiatives.
Personality Traits — You’re: Organized, Connected, A Strong Advocate
4. Evaluate and Monitor Improvement
Once treatment is underway, you’ll continuously evaluate whether your client is moving towards their goals according to the criteria established when you created their treatment plan. The objectives are to determine how you can continue to support your client and if your current methods are effective. For instance, sometimes the treatment plan needs to be changed according to new problems or information presented during treatment, if goals have been met, or if a crisis erupted along the way. The key is to remain flexible in helping your client move towards their goals in the most effective way.
Personality Traits — You’re: Perceptive, Flexible, Analytical
5. Serve as a Client’s Advocate
Being a client’s advocate is oftentimes what beckons social workers to make this work their life’s profession. Whether they think of advocacy on a micro, mezzo, or macro level — being a direct advocate for an individual, advocating within organizations and communities, or engaging in advocacy at the policy/research level — they have a strong calling to make the world a better place by representing those who cannot effectively represent themselves. On an individual level, social workers stand for another person, often in complex situations. For instance, they’ll provide necessary interventions when a child is in an abusive home, working with the family, police, and DCFS to provide immediate and continued safety for the child. On the mezzo and macro levels, social workers function within groups, within community organizations, and amongst policymakers to develop or improve programs, services, policies, and social conditions that will benefit individuals and the field of social work at local, state, and national levels.
Personality Traits — You’re: Courageous, Impactful, Persistent
An Overview of the Social Work Profession
Social work is a deeply rewarding profession that allows you to say at the end of each day, “I made a difference in someone’s life.” Though it’s demanding work, over 600,000 people chose to dedicate their lives and careers to this field, and it’s incredibly rapid 19% growth rate between 2012 and 2022 means many more will do so.1 On a daily basis as a social worker, you’ll be challenged as you help people navigate a wide range of positive and negative stressors such as supporting parents with the emotional challenges of adopting a child, helping a professional navigate a new career, or working with someone who’s trying to exit an abusive relationship, overcome an addiction, or contemplating divorce. For each client, the tasks you’ll complete in the course of your work with them will fall into most, if not all, of the five categories — assessment, treatment, securing resources, monitoring improvement, and being an advocate — though their experience within those tasks, and yours, will be completely individualized.
Make More Than a Difference
Discover how to find success as an effective clinical social worker. Learn more about Widener University’s Online Master of Social Work (MSW) program, call 844-386-7321 or complete the request more information form and a program manager will contact you right away.
1 Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-workers.htm.